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This volume originated in the desire that there should be one work upon Jefferson and his times within the reach of the mass of readers. It was intended to be smaller than it is ; but, in spite of a constant effort to be brief, it has grown to the proportions which the reader sees. For years I have wished, in some way, to recall attention to the points of difference between Jefferson and his opponents, because I think that the best chance of republican America is an adherence to the general line of politics of which he was the embodiment. If Jefferson was wrong, America is wrong. If America is right, Jefferson was right.
Nor ought we to be impatient with those who assert that both America and Jefferson were wrong, since we cannot yet claim for either a final and indubitable triumph. In France the politics with which he' was ide the warmest sympathy resulted in organized massacre and fell Bonaparte; and the party which he led in the United States issued, at the South, in armed rebellion, and, in some portions of the North, in the Rule of the Thief. We must face these facts, and understand their meaning. They no more prove that Jefferson and Madison, Lafayette and Paine, were wrong, than the Inquisition and the religious wars prove that the maxims of Jesus are false. They are only illustrations of the familiar fact, that the progress of truth and justice is slow and very difficult. They show that no country is ripe for equal rights
until a majority of its inhabitants are so far sharers in its • better civilization, that their votes can be obtained by arguments addressed to the understanding.
We must now accept it as an axiom, that universal suffrage, where one-third of the voters cannot read the language of the country they inhabit, tends to place the scoundrel class at the summit of affairs. We see that it has done so in France, in the Southern States, in New York, and in Philadelphia.
But such virtue is there in the Jeffersonian methods, that, even in those places, we find them our best resource. In New York, a mass meeting and its Committee of Seventy, in two years, suppressed the worst of the public stealing. In the South, the freedman rages for the spelling-book. In Pennsylvania, the reign of the scoundrel draws to an end ; and it is everywhere evident, that nothing is farther from the intention of the American people than to submit to lawless or lawful spoliation.
It is even possible that the party which Jefferson founded such vitality did he breathe into it- may again, instructed by defeat and purified in the furnace of affliction, deliver the country from the evils which perplex and threaten it, employing the only expedient that will ever long succeed in a free country, the expedient of being right. Jefferson's principles will do this, if his party does not. A government simple, inexpensive, and strong, that shall protect all rights, including those of posterity, and let all interests protect themselves, assuming no functions except those which the Constitution distinctly assigns it, - these are the principles which Jefferson restored in 1801, and to which the future of the country can be safely trusted.
LIFE OF THOMAS JEFFERSON.
COLONEL PETER JEFFERSON.
TEFFERSON was a stripling of seventeen, tall, raw-boned,
freckled, and sandy-haired, when, in 1760, he came to Williamsburg, from the Far West of Virginia, to enter the College of William and Mary. With his large feet and hands, his thick wrists, and prominent cheek-bones and chin, he could not have been accounted handsome or graceful. He is described, however, as a fresh, bright, healthy-looking youth, as straight as a gun-barrel, sinewy and strong, with that alertness of movement which comes of early familiarity with saddle, gun, canoe, minuet, and contradance, - that sure, elastic tread, and ease of bearing, which we still observe in country-bred lads who have been exempt from the ruder toils of agriculture, while enjoying in full measure the freedom and the sports of the country. His teeth, too, were perfect, which alone redeems a countenance destitute of other charm. His eyes, which were of hazel-gray, were beaming and expressive; and his demeanor gave assurance of a gentle heart, and a sympathetic, inquisitive mind.
Such lads, eager and unformed, still come to college from honest country homes, in regions where agriculture is carried on upon a scale that allows some leisure to the farmer's family, some liberality of expenditure, books, music, a tincture of art, and hospitable habits. How welcome, how dear, to instructors worthy of them, are such unbackneyed minds in bodies unimpaired!